A diet that mimics fasting helps your body stay young


Many people worldwide fast for religious reasons, but researchers have found that a fast-mimicking diet can actually help you stay biologically younger. — dpa

On Feb 14 (2024), some of the world’s 1.4 billion Catholics started fasting or abstaining for Lent, the six-week period before Easter.

From next month (March 2024), Muslims will be obliged to fast from dawn until dusk each day during Ramadan, the four weeks leading up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

At first glance, it looks like tough-going: after all, getting enough food is key to staying healthy.

But for people needing or wanting to diet, it turns out that copying a fast is the way to go, according to results of a University of Southern California (USC), United States, clinical trial published in the journal Nature Communications earlier this month (February 2024).

“Cycles of a diet that mimics fasting can reduce signs of immune system ageing, as well as insulin resistance and liver fat in humans, resulting in a lower biological age,” the researchers say, after carrying out tests on two groups of people aged between 18 to 70 who stuck to the diet for five days a month over three or four consecutive months.

The aim, the team said, was to copy some of the methods of a water-only fast, but at the same time, provide “necessary nutrients”, which makes it easier for people to see out the fast.

Some gourmands might not like the sound of the regimen, however.

Among the items listed are “plant-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chip snacks and tea”, topped off with “a supplement providing high levels of minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids”.

Unappetising as it sounds, the fast diet is “high in unsaturated fats and low in overall calories, protein and carbohydrates”, according to the team, who compared its effects with control groups who ate a “normal” or “Mediterranean-style” diet.

“This is the first study to show that a food-based intervention that does not require chronic dietary or other lifestyle changes can make people biologically younger,” said study senior author and USC professor of gerontology and biological science Dr Valter Longo. – dpa

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